Christopher Fahey [askrom] on Thu, 25 Apr 2002 20:31:01 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Really Viral Marketing

This is a fascinating article about the new owner of Kazaa, Nikki
Hemming, who has turned the notorious file-sharing application into what
could be a very disturbing yet influential chapter in the history of
file-sharing and, hence, copyright law. She's a daring businessperson,
I'll give her that:
She seems to be quietly gearing up her company for a long legal battle.
She also seems to have a "get rich while you can" scheme just in case it
all fails:

This article says that when you install Kazaa you also install a little
hidden app called "Altnet" that allows the app's maker (Brilliant
Digital) to use your computer to do all kinds of stuff at any time, in
theory without asking you. They claim they would never do it, but they
acknowledge that they could. If you don't figure out how to uninstall it
after installing Kazaa, the app just sits there on your machine like
little secret back door. They could use your PC as a 'network farm' for
complex 3D animation rendering. They could tell your machine to play you
a slideshow of targeted ads. They could monitor your surfing activities.
I think it is specifically designed to install other apps on your
computer. They have not yet "turned it on", however.

This got me thinking that Kazaa probably got paid a lot of money to put
this app into their installation package. Kazaa's biggest asset was
their ability to sell (to business partners) space in the Kazaa
installation package to third parties, a common practice among popular
shareware apps. Unlike other businesses who do this, however, Brilliant
Digital's product is able to, in turn, re-sell their newly-purchased
hidden-installation channel to their own customers.

Both Kazaa and Brilliant offer their business partners/customers the
opportunity to secretly "have their way" with the end user. What we get
is a file sharing app, and in return they get the ability to market to
us, use our CPU cycles, spy on us, or otherwise fuck us. Kazaa is a
primary provider and Brilliant is a kind of "re-seller" of what might be
called of "Pay Up The Ass" (or as they say in Spanish, "PUTA") marketing

This gets more complex when you remember (from the first article) that
Brilliant was one of of Nikki Hemming's business associates even before
she bought Kazaa.

It is my theory that these people have come up with what might be an
early prototype for the answer to the RIAA's prayers: turn the
predominant distribution channel for online file sharing into something
that has a way to extract some kind of payment from the end users, even
if it's not money. In other words, make people pay for music by
controlling the most popular way of getting to the music. PUTA may be
the currency that we, as consumers, use to 'purchase' media when it is
possible to get it for free - we use our souls instead of our money to
buy digital media. By redefining the word "free" and by gaining control
over the predominant distribution channels in file sharing, somebody
(Kazaa? RIAA?) might achieve the goal of actually making people "pay"
for what would be traditionally "pirated" content.

We put our personal time and the resources of our own computers (which
are in 2002 effectively extensions of our own bodies, symbiotically
indespensible) up as payment for media. Kazaa and Brilliant are selling
us media which essentially comes with a built-in virus, and we accept it
just like we've always accepted advertising on everything else we own
and use. It's a brave new world.

It may well be doomed to fail, however, since somebody is always going
to figure out a way to piggyback onto the Kazaa network and pirate the
files, anyway.


[christopher eli fahey]

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